Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Art Teacher Finds—Say Cheese!

While doing my weekly food shopping recently I came upon a familiar face in one of the refrigerator cases. "Why Vincent, what are you doing here? I will have to take you home with me."  Thankfully this conversation took place silently in my mind. 

Vincent joined me as I sprinkled this yummy cheese on top of soups, pasta, and added the rest to a quiche. I never thought I would find an art teacher cheese, but here we have it! Have you encountered any art teacher finds lately? Tell me about them in the comments below.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Collaboration: Hearts and Hands Mural

A fellow art teacher on an art teachers Facebook group was my inspiration to create this hand emoji themed mural. (FELLOW TEACHER on Facebook! If you see my post, please reach out to me, I'd love to give you credit for this project!) I enjoy creating collaboration projects as first lessons of the year in the art room. The small size of each students contribution allows for choice. Every student feels successful, I get a chance to assess their skills, and it breaks the ice in the classroom as we all get to know each other. Not to mention we have a beautiful piece of art to hang in the hallway.

One of our finished murals.

I began by searching for a stock photo that I thought would make the best final mural image. Here's the one I chose below. I then printed it out, and placed it on a light box with graph paper over it to plot out the tiled grid. I drew the hand shapes in pencil, and sectioned off the image in red, giving each panel a letter designation. 

I made each square of the graph paper equal to a 3" tile that each of my students would contribute. The paper size for each panel was 18"x18", except for the right most panels, they were 18" x 24". The final size of the mural was 8' wide by 6 'tall.

Plotting out the design.

We discussed the elements of art and my students were given guidelines for their assignment. They had to create at least three tiles to add to the mural, with minimal white space, utilizing the elements of art, and their subject matter had to be appropriate for school display. We used colored Sharpies for our designs, and I provided half sheets of copy paper so they could color all the way to the edges of their tiles without marking up the tables too much.

Creating tile drawings.
As they worked on their tile designs I prepped paper panels, each labeled with a letter of the alphabet. Then I created numbered grids, X marks for spaces that needed tiles, and a corresponding panel beneath them

As the children began to finish their designs, I made several stations each with a panel, glue sponge, and pencil. They were allowed to glue their tiles anywhere that a square had an X marked across it. Wherever they glued their tile, they had to also write their name and class in the corresponding tile below (this helped me with grading, as their names on the back of their tiles got glued down). So in the example, if a student glued their tile to spot #15, they then needed to sign their name and class on the #15 in the smaller panel below. Oh, and see that half-filled diagonal square in the right column? To accommodate the finished image we needed some diagonal designs too. I saved them for extra credit/early finishers. No need to cut the tile in half, just design a half tile drawing, and glue down like a full one. The colored-in areas just needed to match up.

Students add their tiles to the mural.
It was fun to watch how they chose the places to add their tiles to the murals. Some wanted to spread them out by gluing at different stations, some wanted them all together, some chose favorite numbers and so on.

Mural details.
To assemble the mural, I graded their work and removed the lower panels for each piece (hold onto them if you plan to let the kids cut up the mural to retrieve their tiles after it has been exhibited). Then I just assembled in alphabetical order! I taped panels together on the back with masking tape, into vertical strips, and then hung them adjacent to each other to display the mural in full. It's easier to transport and to hang than fastening the entire mural together as one piece. I saved the final reveal for the kids too, so they tried to guess what kind of image our tiles would make each time we worked. Here is the finished piece we made at my second school.
The fact that this collaboration culminates with a positive message to share with the school community is the perfect ending to this unit. I hope you try out a tiled collaboration with your kids. Maybe you'll choose a different kind of image to make into a mural. I'd love to see, so share if you do!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Fresh Coat of Paint: DIY Blog Design

Welcome back. You may notice that things are a bit different around here. Well, so am I after seven years of blogging, teaching, and connecting with you. It seemed time for a change, so I thought I would share my adventures in do-it-yourself blog redesign.

My original banner design is displayed below. I always enjoyed the filmstrip of images along the bottom edge, but after several years I felt that the earth tones I chose, and large self portrait were a little heavy. The portrait was also unnecessary since I have a profile pic on the sidebar. The typeface was a bit too modern next to the children's art. Don't get me wrong, I loved it all when I created it, but I wanted an overall design change which would be more youthful, fun and light.

Original banner design.

I'm a former art director, and my husband is a creative director, so we worked together to try out some new possibilities. First stop, FONTS! There are so many free options out there by great designers. Some can get downright kooky, or can be designed for too specific a purpose, so it can be a challenge to find one that reflects the feeling or message you want to convey. My home studio shares the name with my blog, so the typeface I chose had to work for both. Here are some of the contenders. I enjoyed how the texture within the script on the top left font was reminiscent of outer space, and the bottom right example omitted the counter space of the letter forms. The wordplay of 'space' lends itself to the My Adventures in Positive Space name.

Exploring new typefaces.

Next we added color to the title and newer images of my student's art. I also wanted to show some little hands at work. We played with a collage of colored blocks and pieces of art layered on a grid format. We tried a color scheme closer to my original blog design, then a more multi colored approach, and later tried scaling back to just two strong colors. I loved the ceramic bird as part of the logo, but eventually stuck with the filmstrip concept I used originally for the remainder of the art elements. 

A working layout.

A layout with color changes.

My favorite experience during the design process was when my thirteen year-old daughter joined us as we were exploring different elements and layouts. The ceramic bird was a keeper. It is playful and the blue Twisteezwire legs mimic the color and fluid lines of the logo. My daughter though, she took one look at that bird and made it sing. She said, "Mom, the bird should be smiling. And you should make it looking down at the name and the art." It went from playful to magical. I love it like crazy now! I was amazed at her instinct for visual nuance, combined with her young outlook. Thank you Amelia.

 What do you think? Have you added or created anything new for your blog or website lately? Is it time for a fresh coat of paint? Happy Spring!

Friday, March 10, 2017

NAEA Convention 2017

The 2017 National Art Education Association Convention came to NYC this month, and since it's only a train ride away I was able to attend. I highly recommend that you participate in an NAEA Convention if you can. I've only been able to go when it hits NYC. The cost of plane fare, hotels and such can be quite a bit, and I'm still in a part-time position (sigh), BUT— if you can go, DO IT! 

Here is my Top Ten List of favorite experiences at the 2017 convention, in no particular order. Share yours with me in the comments below.

1: The Commute! Okay, commuting isn't the greatest. But commuting for a few days to go out and have new experiences is a lovely change of pace. There is a great big world out there, and getting out of the day to day is a welcome change. I commuted with a colleague one morning, and a couple of times with my husband, who has been commuting to work for years now day in and day out. It gave me a renewed appreciation for all he does. Thank you Matt! By the way, can you tell that I love the Prisma app?

The morning commute with my husband Matt.

2: New Ideas! One of the workshops I attended was all about the Post Modern Elements of Art, and how to incorporate them into lessons along with Color, Shape, Line and so on. Ever try an Elements of Art sandwich? 

 Thanks Rahama Junaid, Karolina Maroulis, and Meghan Cerrone for a great lecture!

3: The Energy! There is something about being the one lonely art teacher at a school, or the handful in a district, and getting the opportunity to meet up with thousands of them in a great city, with activities, learning, exhibits, and incredibly knowledgeable speakers. For all of the times we feel shuffled around, or out of place in professional development that is great for a school system overall, but not so much for an art educator, this is the place to be! It is downright revitalizing!

 Waiting for prizes at the art supply raffle. So many winners!

Crowds waiting to see a workshop/lecture.

 4: The Sense of Community! Ever hang out with a few thousand art teachers? It is wonderful. Well, okay, it was crowded! But amidst the crowds and on-again off-again chaos, I had so many lovely conversations with teachers from all over the country who shared their love of education, the arts, and the stories of how they traveled to take part in this year's convention. All of my encounters were open and kind. That is worthy of a mention on a top ten list!

5: Art Teacher Celebrities! We are a small niche in the education world, and even smaller in the the world at large, but we have our celebrities don't we? I had a wonderful time attending workshops by Laura Lohmann of Painted Paper Art and Cassie Stephens, and got to say hi! Can I just say, that these two ladies were so gracious and kind. I volunteered quite a few times to act as photographer for attendees who just had to have a picture of themselves getting to meet Cassie and Laura, and each time they said yes to requests, were kind and gave a big old smile. On the second day I asked Cassie how she was holding up, and she mentioned that her cheeks were hurting, and I said, "That's a good problem to have!" I actually didn't ask for picture myself until the last day. Thanks ladies! You were an amazing part of this year's convention.

6: Sharing Great Art Lessons! There were many hands-on workshops and lectures about best practices, pedagogy, and the like, but frankly my favorites are where fellow teachers share their art lessons. And as much as I like the access to each other online, being in a room face-to-face, having a back and forth, and getting a sense of each teacher's style and personality is simply wonderful. 

One of my favorite presentations was Change it Up: 30 Art Lessons in 50 Minutes. Julia and Evangeline conveyed a great sense of their experience, an upbeat attitude, and had an awesome rapport with the attendees and each other. And I took away inspiration to try something new, tweak things I currently teach, and to revisit some lessons that have been left to the wayside

Thanks Julia Healy and Evangeline Christodoulou for your energy!
Fabulous blogger Phyl from There's a Dragon in my Art Room gave a workshop explaining her magical toothpaste batik techniques, with samples of each step of the process, and a funny and cozy atmosphere. It could have been that the room was packed! Lol! Nice to see you again Phyl.
Thanks Phyl Brown for your Tootpaste Batik Workshop.

My absolute favorite was Fabulous, Fun Folk Art, which was facilitated by Laura Lohmann, Cassie Stephens, Ginger Pacer at Paintbrush Rocket, and Jennifer Alvarado. For the elementary level educators out there, go find info about this presentation. I'm pretty sure each of these women have shared on their blogs etc. all about it!

7: Art Supplies! It is always fun to see the vendors in the Exhibitor's Hall. I worked in art supply retail through my college years (when there were still mom and pop stores), and have always loved trying new products and chatting up sales reps. They are so generous with their time, and usually have samples, sales and 'make and take' experiences to share with all of us. I appreciate them all! Two of my favorites this year were Jack Richeson and Sakura.

Trying out various tempera paints.

Making a masterpiece with oil pastels.

8: Exhibits! There were many unexpected exhibits and displays on view as I walked around to visit the exhibitors hall, workshops and lectures.The Paper, but not Paper exhibit by YMM Art Space Students was incredible to see.

I also saw a collection of giant pages from the book Color New York: 20 Views to Color in by Hand by Emma Kelly, complete with materials to spend a few minutes helping to color them in. So much fun!


9: The Sights! Even growing up as someone who has lived and worked in and around New York City, it is s a fabulous place to visit. This year's convention was down the street from The Museum of Modern Art, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and more. Including an experience in the host city is a must, or at least go out and take a walk! Here are some pictures snapped during my walks up from Penn Station:

10: Reflection... Train rides home each night gave me to time to quiet my mind, and reflect on the experiences of the day. Some of the NJ commute is less than idyllic, but having that quiet time is necessary after a day of so much input and stimulation.

If you can't swing a trip to a National convention, be a part of your state association. Form a group with your colleagues in your county or district. Maybe you've found one amazing colleague that supports you and shares with you. Stick with them and give them a thank you! And if you move far enough along in confidence and experience, pass that support onto others. 

And don't forget the power of teachers who blog, and share on social media! I know that blogs are more effort to seek out, read, write, and keep up, but I still feel that they are a great resource and community, so thanks for stopping in when you do! The pace of technology is amazing.

Next year's NAEA is in Seattle and will be hard for me to swing, but 2019 is in Boston, so I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Sharpie Art Workshop for Kids

Do you use Sharpies in the art room? They can be a great component of so many art projects, from informal doodles, to elaborate long-term drawing projects. A friend and fellow blogger, the amazing art teacher Kathy Barbro at Art Projects for Kids has just released a wonderful book titled Sharpie Art Workshop for Kids, in which she shares a multitude of art lesson ideas using these awesome markers!

The featured projects could serve as a great jumping-off point for a more experienced art teacher, or a great beginning for someone who home schools, or just wants to get more creative time in with their kids. Kathy begins with the basics of color theory, the elements of art, and things to have in a well stocked art room. She takes advantage of the fact that Sharpies can be used on many surfaces, and creates projects on canvas, cardboard, tin cans, CD cases and more. She also draws inspiration from animals, world cultures, and art history.

You can find this amazing item wherever cool art books are sold, like here at Amazon! Make sure you take a peek inside to see projects, supplies, and templates. This is a great addition to the art room library.

Thanks Kathy for sharing a copy for me to review here at Positive Space! Congratulations on being published.